“Made in Latin America”

A unique selling proposition (USP): “During the introduction and growth stage of a product’s life cycle, the marketing concept based on unique benefits works exceedingly well if it is the first product of its kind to enter an unsaturated market.” (Wikipedia, translated from the German version). The Casa Daros was such a unique art offering made in unsaturated Rio de Janeiro.

A house for all

When we established the Casa Daros in Rio de Janeiro as a platform and forum for Latin America in Latin America, what we were actually doing was tearing down the barriers—whether deliberate or unintended ones—between the individual countries and the people living there.

We wanted to pry open those hermetic structures and create osmotic permeability instead, forming space for ideas to flow freely. That was the driving force underlying all of our planned and performed activities, exhibitions, and events; that was the core of the collection—and our unique selling proposition, too, for no one else had ever followed this pursuit.

At the Casa Daros, all this became reality, with Brazilians and other Latin Americans seeing each other on a daily basis, neighbors finally meeting as neighbors, prejudices and fears of contact being reduced. The flourishing dialog served to constructively demystify “the other”, the hitherto downright unknown. This is where artists and culture professionals from all of Latin America gathered, where they had the opportunity to get to know each other, to learn together and from one another, to develop a common discourse.

 

More than just another art space,

the Casa Daros in Rio de Janeiro fulfilled multiple functions:

  • it was an open house (hence the name “Casa”);
  • it served as a platform for information and networking beyond political agendas;
  • it formed a link between Rio de Janeiro and Brazil with all of Latin America;
  • it set a counterbalance to Europe and North America in Latin America;
  • it promoted “Made in Latin America” as a quality label;
  • it provided an artistic, cultural, social, political, and educational forum in Rio de Janeiro with the artists and their works at its center, and
  • it performed intense exhibition activities in and outside the Daros exhibition spaces, in and outside Latin America, with the support of numerous scientific publications, a comprehensive library, and a continuously growing international network.

What is more, we had the benefit of an excellently organized and democratically informed educational environment based on a strictly scientific foundation, not unlike the approach we had previously taken in Zürich, but created to specifically suit the situation at the Casa Daros in Rio de Janeiro.Of course, it was our goal to involve all other fields of art, too, and to reach out internationally after having put Latin America “on the map.” (Unfortunately, the Casa Daros was in operation for only two and a half years—but fortunately, we had already carried out many activities even long before it had opened.)

 

Face to Face

The activities of Daros Latinamerica were intended to scrutinize and sharpen the standpoints of our public and to reduce widespread prejudices and exoticisms in and outside Latin America. It was a matter of course to us that art from Latin America was on a par with international production from Europe and North America. One instance that was aimed at demonstrating their absolute equivalence was the meanwhile legendary exhibition “Face to Face” of 2007/2008 in Zürich, where we paralleled canonical masterpieces from Latin America (courtesy of the Daros Latinamerica Collection) to such from North America and Europe (courtesy of the Daros Collection).

Exhibition “Face to Face”, Zürich 2008, Photography: Thomas Lenden

What appealed to us was the challenge of selecting works of a similar character from the two collections and juxtaposing them so that they could enter into a dialogue. Instead of pitting cultures against one another, we wanted to bring them together, grouping them in playful sequences on different themes, forming a network of free associations and surprises, combining Beuys with Grippo, Camnitzer and Meireles with Warhol, Polke with Nelson Leirner, Barnett Newman with Soto and Caldas, Jackson Pollock with Chemi Rosado… This was a mind opening and unforgettable experience for all our visitors who finally were able to understand that art from Latin America did not have to be derivative or exotic. It motivated its visitors to reappraise their habitual ways of seeing and to venture into new territory.

 

 

 

  1. In fact, I remember the first meeting with artists, curators and art related figures of Latin America organized by Casa Daros before it opened, organized to elicit opinions about the possible activities of the institution. Most of our suggestions were technical: the need for the formation of curators, courses in conservation and restoration, and other topics on that level. You, Hans, then stopped us explaining that although all that was fine and good, the idea was to create an institution that functioned as catalyst. That being financed by non Latin American funds, there was the danger of misguided paternalistic (or worse) interference. That the question to be answered was how to achieve a self and independently sustainable process that would help the flourishing of continental culture with a dynamic generated from within and not blinded by national frontiers or by foreign interests. So, no wonder the project only lasted little more than 2 years. It didn’t fit corporative thinking nor did it generate profit for the invested capital, so: what was the point of pursuing such a project? We all were truly naïve in believing that such an idealist project was possible.

    1. Thanks for your comment, dear Luis!
      Of course I always had to bridge the gap between the investors and our own thoughts, but that worked really well during many years, that act of balance was worth being done. Of course there is always a great deal of naivete in all idealist ventures, but what were life if not? Best, yours Hans

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